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House Prepares to Pass $768 Billion Defense Policy Bill

Jacob Scott

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WASHINGTON — The House raced on Tuesday to pass a $768 billion defense policy bill after lawmakers abruptly dropped proposals that would have required women to register for the draft, repealed Congress’s 2002 authorization of the Iraq war and imposed sanctions for a Russian gas pipeline, in a late-year drive to salvage a bipartisan priority.

The legislation, unveiled just hours before a planned vote, put the Democratic-led Congress on track to increase the Pentagon’s budget by roughly $24 billion above what President Biden had requested, angering antiwar progressives who had hoped that their party’s control of the White House and both houses of Congress would lead to cuts to military programs after decades of growth.

Instead, the measure provides significant increases for initiatives intended to counter China and bolster Ukraine, as well as the procurement of new aircraft and ships, underscoring the bipartisan consensus on Capitol Hill for continuing to spend huge amounts of federal money on defense initiatives, even as Republicans lash Democrats for spending freely on social programs.

Because it authorizes an annual pay increase for the nation’s troops as well as new Pentagon programs, the defense policy bill has typically been considered a must-pass item, and lawmakers have prided themselves on doing so annually without fail for decades. The House and Senate usually craft and pass their own bills separately, considering dozens of amendments along the way, before negotiating a compromise version.

But this year, that process collapsed in an end-of-year spasm of dysfunction unusual even for a legislative body that is plagued by partisan paralysis.

The Senate neither passed its own bill nor considered any amendments, denying lawmakers the chance to vote on a number of foreign policy issues. Instead, top congressional officials huddled behind closed doors in recent days to cobble together a bill that could quickly pass both chambers.

In its final form, the legislation would authorize a 2.7 percent pay increase for the nation’s military, call for an independent commission to scrutinize the war in Afghanistan, and prohibit the Pentagon from procuring items produced with forced labor from the Xinjiang region of China, where as many as one million Uyghurs have been detained in work camps.

It also contains a painstakingly negotiated compromise to strip military commanders of authority over sexual assault cases and many other serious crimes, placing them under independent military prosecutors in a move that had long been opposed by military leaders and presidents. Both Mr. Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III endorsed the shift earlier this year.

Other significant changes were left out in the interest of swift passage. Lawmakers tossed out a measure requiring women to register with the Selective Service System for the first time in American history, a step endorsed by a national commission last year that found expanding eligibility for the selective service would be a crucial step toward increasing both gender equity and readiness in the military.

Some conservatives in Congress had long resisted the idea, arguing that it was immoral to force women to fight the nation’s wars, and a bloc of House Republicans had threatened to withhold their support for the bill if it was included. Their votes were needed because of opposition among liberals, who refused to endorse such a large defense budget.

Leaders of the armed services committees also excluded a House-passed bill to repeal the 2002 law authorizing the invasion of Iraq, which has been stretched by multiple administrations to justify military action around the world. Repealing the authorization was expected to win broad bipartisan backing in the Senate.

Senator Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia and one of the lead authors of the measure, told reporters he was “confident” that the issue would get a vote in the “near future,” citing a commitment from party leaders.

Also missing from the final legislation was a provision passed by the House that directed Mr. Biden to impose sanctions over the Nord Stream 2, an undersea gas pipeline running from Russia to Germany that lawmakers fear will give Moscow undue leverage over Central Europe.

Biden’s ​​Social Policy Bill at a Glance

Card 1 of 7

The centerpiece of Biden’s domestic agenda. The sprawling $2.2 trillion spending bill aims to battle climate change, expand health care and bolster the social safety net. Here’s a look at some key provisions and how they might affect you:

Health care. The bill’s health provisions, which represent the biggest step toward universal coverage since the Affordable Care Act, would expand access for children, make insurance more affordable for working-age adults and improve Medicare benefits for disabled and older Americans.

“This sends the worst possible message to Ukraine as Putin’s forces stand at its doorstep,” said Senator Jim Risch of Idaho, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, on the decision to pull the language from the bill. “So much for Congress reasserting its role in foreign policy.”

The defense policy bill was expected to pass the closely divided House by a narrow margin, with a bloc of liberals voting “no.”

In September, the House Armed Services Committee approved its version of the legislation, after over a dozen moderate Democrats on the panel joined Republicans in pushing it through.

The bill still includes a slew of provisions requiring that the administration provide more reports to Congress on Afghanistan, including one requesting regular briefings that assess the surveillance and reconnaissance capacity of the United States to conduct counterterrorism operations there.

In addition to authorizing the creation of a commission to scrutinize the 20-year war in Afghanistan, the measure would bar defense contractors and former cabinet secretaries from serving on it.

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‘Moon Knight’ Took Marvel in a Different Orbit, but It Didn’t Rise to the Occasion

Jacob Scott

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Before anyone writes that off as an anomaly, “Eternals” tackled a similar introduction of a dense mythology on the bigger screen, with equally mixed results. It’s a reminder that while film-goers have had more than a decade to get to know characters like Iron Man, Captain America and Thor, introducing some of these lesser-known heroes can pose a more formidable challenge beyond catering to the most ardent fans.
For Marvel, there are warning signs in that, since “Moon Knight” will be followed by several series based on second-tier characters, although the next two on the horizon, “Ms. Marvel” (which is due in June) and “She-Hulk,” at least have the benefit of sharing franchises and name recognition with existing Avengers.
Ultimately, “Moon Knight’s” murky storytelling appeared to squander its principal assets, which included the cool look of the character — a costume that was too seldom used — and the presence of Isaac, who possesses additional genre credentials via the “Star Wars” sequels.

Taking its time in peeling back the layers of the character’s complicated backstory, “Moon Knight” took a weird plunge into the Egyptian mythology behind it, in ways that became increasingly confounding and surreal.

By the time the protagonist’s two halves, Steven Grant and Marc Spector, wound up in a psychiatric hospital talking to an anthropomorphic hippo in the penultimate chapter, the question wasn’t so much being able to keep up with the story as whether bothering to do so was worth the effort.

The sixth and final episode brought the plot to a messy close, seeking to stop the goddess Ammit from proceeding to “purify the souls of Cairo, and then the world.” In the customary credit sequence, the producers capped that off by introducing a third personality, Jake Lockley, also rooted in the comics. While that seemingly spelled the end for the show’s villain (Ethan Hawke), the finish — giving the god Khonshu the protégé he sought — paved the way for further adventures should Marvel so choose.

That last twist might be cause for celebration in narrower confines of the Marvel fan universe, but “Moon Knight” too often felt like it was one long Easter-egg sequence, conspicuously preaching to that choir.

Granted, Marvel has made clear that Disney+ offers the chance to explore different kinds of stories, but “Moon Knight” feels at best like a quirky showcase for Isaac and at worst a failed experiment in terms of execution and tone.

That doesn’t mean this “Moon” won’t somehow rise again, if the closely held streaming data justifies it. But the promise that surrounded this property has faded, providing further evidence that even Marvel isn’t immune from setbacks as it moves into its next phase.

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Start-up Pony.ai says it’s the first self-driving company to get a taxi license in China

Jacob Scott

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Autonomous driving start-up Pony.ai can collect fares for robotaxi rides in parts of two major Chinese cities as of Sunday.

Pony.ai handout

BEIJING — Self-driving start-up Pony.ai announced Sunday it received a taxi license, the first of its kind in China.

The license allows Pony.ai to operate 100 self-driving cars as traditional taxis in the Nansha district of the southern city of Guangzhou, the company said.

The Chinese start-up, which is backed by Toyota, received approval from Beijing city late last year to charge fees to operate a commercial robotaxi business in a suburban district of the city. It is not the same as a taxi licence.

Baidu’s Apollo Go also received approval in the same Beijing district last year.

Pony.ai was valued at $8.5 billion in early March. The company said its Nansha taxi license required 24 months of autonomous driving testing in China and/or other countries, and no involvement in any active liability traffic accidents, among other factors.

The start-up said it plans to launch commercial robotaxi businesses in two other large Chinese cities next year. The company is already testing self-driving cars in those cities and in California. 

Robotaxis in China currently have a human driver present for safety.

— CNBC’s Arjun Kharpal contributed to this report.

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How to watch Timberwolves vs. Grizzlies: TV channel, NBA live stream info, start time

Jacob Scott

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Who’s Playing

Memphis @ Minnesota

Current Records: Memphis 2-1; Minnesota 1-2

What to Know

The Memphis Grizzlies’ road trip will continue as they head to Target Center at 10 p.m. ET this past Saturday to face off against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Memphis will be strutting in after a win while Minnesota will be stumbling in from a loss.

The Grizzlies are hoping for another victory. They beat the Timberwolves 104-95 this past Thursday. The victory came about thanks to a strong surge after the first quarter to overcome a 39-21 deficit. Memphis’ success was spearheaded by the efforts of power forward Brandon Clarke, who had 20 points in addition to eight rebounds, and shooting guard Desmond Bane, who shot 7-for-15 from beyond the arc and finished with 26 points and six boards.

Barring any buzzer beaters, Memphis is expected to win a tight contest. They might be worth taking a chance on against the spread as they are currently on a two-game streak of ATS wins.

Memphis’ win brought them up to 2-1 while the Timberwolves’ defeat pulled them down to a reciprocal 1-2. A couple offensive stats to keep in the back of your head while watching: The Grizzlies come into the game boasting the second most points per game in the league at 115.6. But Minnesota is even better: they rank first in the league when it comes to points per game, with 115.9 on average. Tune in for what’s sure to be a high-scoring contest.

How To Watch

When: Saturday at 10 p.m. ET Where: Target Center — Minneapolis, Minnesota TV: ESPN Online streaming: fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.) Follow: CBS Sports App Ticket Cost: $76.96

Odds

The Grizzlies are a slight 2.5-point favorite against the Timberwolves, according to the latest NBA odds.

The oddsmakers had a good feel for the line for this one, as the game opened with the Grizzlies as a 3-point favorite.

Over/Under: -110

See NBA picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History

Memphis have won 19 out of their last 28 games against Minnesota.

Apr 21, 2022 – Memphis 104 vs. Minnesota 95 Apr 19, 2022 – Memphis 124 vs. Minnesota 96 Apr 16, 2022 – Minnesota 130 vs. Memphis 117 Feb 24, 2022 – Minnesota 119 vs. Memphis 114 Jan 13, 2022 – Memphis 116 vs. Minnesota 108 Nov 20, 2021 – Minnesota 138 vs. Memphis 95 Nov 08, 2021 – Memphis 125 vs. Minnesota 118 May 05, 2021 – Memphis 139 vs. Minnesota 135 Apr 02, 2021 – Memphis 120 vs. Minnesota 108 Jan 13, 2021 – Memphis 118 vs. Minnesota 107 Jan 07, 2020 – Memphis 119 vs. Minnesota 112 Dec 01, 2019 – Memphis 115 vs. Minnesota 107 Nov 06, 2019 – Memphis 137 vs. Minnesota 121 Mar 23, 2019 – Minnesota 112 vs. Memphis 99 Feb 05, 2019 – Memphis 108 vs. Minnesota 106 Jan 30, 2019 – Minnesota 99 vs. Memphis 97 Nov 18, 2018 – Memphis 100 vs. Minnesota 87 Apr 09, 2018 – Minnesota 113 vs. Memphis 94 Mar 26, 2018 – Memphis 101 vs. Minnesota 93 Dec 04, 2017 – Memphis 95 vs. Minnesota 92 Feb 04, 2017 – Memphis 107 vs. Minnesota 99 Nov 19, 2016 – Memphis 93 vs. Minnesota 71 Nov 01, 2016 – Minnesota 116 vs. Memphis 80 Oct 26, 2016 – Memphis 102 vs. Minnesota 98 Mar 16, 2016 – Minnesota 114 vs. Memphis 108 Feb 19, 2016 – Memphis 109 vs. Minnesota 104 Jan 23, 2016 – Minnesota 106 vs. Memphis 101 Nov 15, 2015 – Memphis 114 vs. Minnesota 106

Injury Report for Minnesota

No Injury Information

Injury Report for Memphis

Dillon Brooks: Game-Time Decision (Foot) Santi Aldama: Out (Knee) Killian Tillie: Out (Knee)

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